Bethany Barton is an LA based author and relationship coach who enjoys writing about human emotion and connection. She recently finished her breakout book, Apologies I Never Got. To see more of her work, please visit www.bethanynicole.com
City of Angels
He was new in town, that was very clear. The way he dressed wasn’t like anything we had ever seen. He was all black leather and boots, all an attitude and an air of confidence, we couldn’t be less familiar with. Everyone we knew was arrogant, sure, but in a very understated way. Maybe understated isn’t the word, because the arrogance was obvious to any casual observer, it was simply masked. A transparent disguise of side comments, and pointed questions. Asking coyly about a neighbors’ relative’s recent return from rehab, or the feigned sudden interest in the well-being of a recently bankrupt neighbor, for example.
But these things paled in comparison to the assertive, almost aggressive way, Michael interacted with his surroundings. He wanted to see people uncomfortable, wanted them to question their own motives. He wanted us all to take a second look at all the ways of life and social constructs, we had always taken for granted. I knew I liked him immediately. It took awhile for me to really get to know why, but I knew I liked him immediately.
He wasn’t like anyone I’d ever met, his disdain for social norms and school regulations instantly gave me a deep level of respect for him. I mean, I listened to my parents and teachers, and the other adults of the community, but I wouldn’t say I respected them. But Michael, Michael I respected.
The first time I heard him speak, was in our English literature class. Our teacher, Mr. Johnson, had called on him to answer a question. The question was about if Shakespeare was still relevant today. Although Michael was the new kid in school, he didn’t hesitate. “Of course he is”, he responded, so sure of himself. “His themes still touch on our daily lives. Love, loss, ,hatred, betrayal. Those are timeless themes. Human existence itself.” The teacher was speechless. It was probably the most he had ever gotten from a student, hell from anyone in that town.
After school that day I saw him walking home alone. I pushed past the group of slow-moving students ahead of me and raced to catch up to him. He looked surprised when I sidled up beside him, somewhat breathless. He turned to me, his icy blue eyes focusing in on me, while the cold wind began to rustle his blonde hair beneath his hood. I couldn’t think of anything to say so I just stuck out my hand. “Beverly” I said. “Michael” he responded, taking my hand and shaking it. “Umm so I really liked what you said in class today. The thing about Shakespeare.” I managed to get out. “Oh, thanks. No one said anything so I didn’t think anyone really got it.” “Well probably no one did” I laughed. “So what is there to do in this town?” he asked casually. “Besides Shakespeare synopsis?”
I laughed. “Well there is this one place, its by the river, there’s this huge willow tree and it has a rope swing attached. I like to go there sometimes, hardly anyone ever uses it.
“Sounds cool. Show me tomorrow?” “Umm sure” I sputtered. “Great, meet me here. 9:00, ok?” “Sure, ok, I’ll see you then.” He split off towards the path to the center of town, while I kept going straight, towards my own home.
I spent the entire night analyzing the conversation, every look he had given me, every word he had said. I don’t think I slept more than two hours the entire night. When 9:00 am finally rolled around, I was dressed in my bathing suit and some cut off shorts, I threw a tank top over my bathing suit and headed out the door.
He was already at the spot, leaning against the fence post, waiting patiently for me to arrive. He waved, as I approached. “Hi” I responded lamely. “So where is this magical spot?” he asked. “Don’t get your hopes up” I laughed, “but it’s this way.” We headed down the path towards the clearing.
When we got to the spot he looked around approvingly, them much to my surprise, immediately stripped off his clothes and dove right in the water. I stood grounded to the spot where I stood. Speechless. I had seen naked boys before, but I had never seen anyone do that. He surfaced from the water, his eyes glistening, the rays of the morning summer sun settling on his tan skin. He splashed the water beside him, as he asked if I wanted to join him. I stood a moment longer on the bank, weighing my options. I knew this would be what the town considered “moving fast”, but something about the smell of the air around me, and the earth beneath my feet. The way his eyes and the water, beckoned me to step into the next chapter of my life, I could no longer resist my feelings or the temptation…and in I went. I stripped away my clothes and my inhibitions, and against all I’d ever known, I took the plunge.
We kissed, long; deeply and slowly. It was nothing like the awkward pecking and intrusive jabbing I had experienced from the other boys in town. We stayed in the water, entangled in each other’s bodies, for what felt like hours.
For a moment, he pulled away and looked deeply into my eyes as he asked “Would you like to come away with me? He gently caressed my face with his hand. “What? Now?” I laughed. “No, not now. But someday.”
I smiled, “Sure, maybe someday.”
‘We can live our lives like a Shakespeare play“
“As long as we aren’t Romeo and Juliet” I laughed.
“I was thinking more like a dream, a life that is more an abstract blend of beautiful prose and emotions that blend together like colors on a canvas”
“Sounds perfect” I agreed.
The entire summer we spent reading Shakespeare aloud to each other under that willow. We watched the days grow short and our love grow strong. We never talked anymore about the future. We both just knew it would happen. When the time was right, we would go and we would never look back.
“Where were you thinking?” I asked him one night, while we lay on a blanket beneath the willow.
“California of course. It’s amazing. I visited once with my dad. You can be anything you want to be. You can be exactly who you are and no one cares. Not like here. Not like anywhere.”
“it sounds magical” I whispered into the dark.
“That’s why they call it the City of Angels.” He replied.
That night I dreamt of endless oceans, and stars that lived in the sky and on a walkway, telling stories of all kinds of ancestors, the kinds long gone, and the kind not so gone at all.
Then, just like that, the day came. He whispered to me one day after class. “Tomorrow morning. Let’s make our dreams come true. I finally have the money together. We can go.”
That morning I walked out to our spot, he was waiting by the fence, just like always. A smile on his lips and the dream of tomorrow in his eyes. We climbed into his car, I threw my duffel bag into the back seat. ..and we drove. And he was right, we never did look back.
Years later, as I sit here in our home by the ocean, listening to the waves and the gulls, a cup of coffee in my hand and A Midsummer Night’s Dream tucked safely in my lap, I know without a doubt, I made the right choice. I knew, that the City of Angels, was exactly that, a city of miracles and of a city of daydreams, the kind that you never had to wake up from..
From the Editor:
We hope that readers receive In Parentheses as a medium through which the evolution of human thought can be appreciated, nurtured and precipitated. It will present a dynamo of artistic expression, journalism, informal analysis of our daily world, entertainment of ideas considered lofty and criticism of today’s popular culture. The featured content does not follow any specific ideology except for that of intellectual expansion of the masses.
Founded in late 2011, In Parentheses prides itself upon analysis of the current condition of intelligence in the minds of these young people, and building a hypothesis for one looming question: what comes after Post-Modernism?
The idea for this magazine stems from a simple conversation regarding the aforementioned question, which drew out the need to identify our generation’s place in literary history.
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